In a historic move, the European Union endorsed the Paris Agreement on climate change on Tuesday, the latest of many governing bodies to do so over the past several weeks. The ratification puts the UN's climate deal on track to propel a global effort to dramatically reduce emission levels over the coming decades.
The deal is expected to enter into force 30 days after the EU submits ratification documents, which it is expected to do by Friday.
The ratification of the Paris accords comes even more quickly than the original drafters of the agreement expected, reflecting a significant shift in priorities worldwide toward dealing with climate change on a more global, comprehensive level than ever before. The effort to reduce emissions, chartered by the United Nations, will be the first of its kind to curb emissions on this scale.
For the climate deal to enter into force, at least 55 member states, accounting for at least 55 percent of global emissions, had to ratify the agreement. The 55-country mark was surpassed last month, but the percentage of emissions was a little harder to achieve. The United States and China, the world's largest emitters, ratified the deal in September. India, which accounts for 4.3 percent of the world's emissions, ratified the deal on Sunday, but the EU ratification will finally push the agreement over the edge.
The European Union's 28 nations together account for about 12 percent of the world's emissions. While seven member states had already ratified it independently, the ratification of the remaining countries at once was a huge leap past the 55 percent mark. The EU had previously estimated it would not be able to ratify the agreement until 2017, according to Scientific American.
"They said Europe is too complicated to agree quickly," EU Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete said in a statement Friday. "They said we had too many hoops to jump through."
The EU overwhelmingly approved the plan, with 610 votes in favor, 38 against and with 31 abstentions.
UN chief Ban Ki-Moon, who was present for the EU vote, called the ratification "historic," according to Reuters.
"With the action taken by the EU parliament, I am confident that we will be able to cross 55 percent threshold very soon, in just a matter of a few days," said Mr. Ban. "You now have an opportunity to make history by helping lead the world to a better future ... let us show we are united."
The Paris Agreement aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions by moving away from fossil fuels and backing cleaner energy sources. Countries hope to limit global warming to under 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit), compared to pre-industrial temperatures.
The EU ratification comes as good news for the Obama administration, which hopes to lock in the agreement before the president leaves office. While Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton supports the agreement, Republican nominee Donald Trump does not. By entering into force before the end of Obama's term, the US would not be able to leave the agreement right away in the event of a Trump presidency.
This report contains material from Reuters and the Associated Press.